SUV skirmish: Jeep Renegade vs Nissan Qashqai
The Qashqai is a consummate all-rounder, but if you need off-road capability from your SUV, the characterful Renegade will be the one for you.
It seems everyone and anyone is trying to steal the Nissan Qashqai’s crown at the top of the mid-size SUV market, and one of the latest newcomers is Jeep.
On paper, it sounds like a great idea: you take one of the most iconic 4x4 badges on the planet and stick it to a smaller SUV. So is it a recipe for success or a dog’s dinner?
We pitched the Renegade against the ever-popular Qashqai in a bid to find out.
Though there’s little between these two in terms of dimensions, there are two distinct shapes on display here. The Qashqai has an ultra-modern, swooping, aerodynamic design, while the Renegade sticks to its manufacturer’s boxy roots.
It’ll be a matter of taste, but we think the Renegade actually looks the business. Where the Qashqai is unashamedly designed to look like a jacked-up hatchback, the Renegade looks like a shrunken off-roader capable of tackling whatever the Home Counties can throw at it.
The stubby overhangs promise to keep the front and rear valances away from peril, and there’s a cute-but-determined look that gives it an endearing charm.
In contrast, the Qashqai has more conventional proportions, but it lacks the character of the Jeep. Perhaps that’s just familiarity breeding indifference, or maybe it’s a case of Nissan intentionally designing the car to be inoffensive. Either way it’s a smart and classy look, so the Qashqai’s the one we’d use if we had to turn up at a posh ambassadorial cocktail party.
As with the exterior design, the interiors demonstrate two very different approaches. The Jeep’s cabin is boxier, more rugged-looking and feels more spacious, while the Qashqai continues its flowing, hatchback-style lines inside, albeit with a chunky feel that betrays the car’s extra size.
Though the Jeep’s cabin feels more spacious, it can’t boast the same amount of luggage space as the Nissan. With a 430-litre boot, the Qashqai’s luggage bay far exceeds the Renegade’s 351 litres, and it’s larger with the seats folded too.
But while the Qashqai may be the more practical family car, the Jeep makes a case for itself as the more personable machine. With little ‘Easter Eggs’ hidden everywhere, from the little Jeep scaling the windscreen and the iconic Jeep grille recreated in the speaker mesh, the Renegade seems intent on putting a smile on your face. It’s a rare splash of personality in a normally po-faced market.
There seems to be little to choose between the two cars in terms of cabin quality. For every swath of hard plastic on the Renegade’s dash there’s a flimsy toggle switch on the Qashqai’s steering wheel, and for every impeccable join in the Nissan there’s a dash of soft leather on the Jeep’s armrest.
When it comes to technology, however, Jeep struggles to match the tour de force that is Nissan. In these high-spec models on test, both get two-zone climate control, automatic lights, satellite navigation and so on, but this top-of-the-range Qashqai edges its American rival with toys like a 360-degree reversing camera and extra safety equipment.
That said, though, the Jeep presents itself brilliantly, with classy graphics on the touchscreen and a brilliant TFT monitor between the speedo and the tachometer. The touchscreen isn’t perfect and the Bluetooth was a little temperamental during our time with the Renegade, but it makes the Qashqai’s displays look a tad dated.
On the road
Despite the fact our test car came with the fleet-friendly 1.6-litre diesel engine and emissions-reducing front-wheel drive, the Renegade was still very much set up as a 4x4. The abundant ground clearance is excellent for mud-plugging, but the downside is noticeable body roll through corners and a slightly firm ride. Get it loping down the motorway and you won’t notice it, but over the pockmarked roads of a town centre it does feel a little harsher than the Nissan.
Speaking of which, the hatchback-derived set-up has made the Qashqai an epic all-rounder, with a supple ride, controlled body lean and steering that’s linear and predictable, if a little numb.
The Jeep does claw a little back with its gearbox, which is slightly more precise than the Qashqai’s, but the Nissan is quite a force to be reckoned with when it comes to driving dynamics.
Off-road, however, it’s a different story. The Jeep is available with a torquey 2.0-litre engine, all-wheel drive, off-road accoutrements aplenty and 70 years of experience. There is a four-wheel-drive Qashqai, too, although it’s powered by a comparatively small 1.6-litre diesel.
Both will manage muddy fields, but the Renegade is the one you’d want to take you through the snowdrifts of a Scandinavian winter or the shifting sands of the Sahara.
Here the Renegade pays for its boxy shape and off-road ability, as well as its lack of a properly frugal diesel engine.
Both cars are seen here with their most wallet-friendly engines; small-ish diesel engines mated to six-speed manual transmissions and front-wheel drive.
The Qashqai has a slightly advantage thanks to its 1.5-litre engine, which is smaller than the Renegade’s 1.6 and about 10bhp less powerful, so it’s a touch more economical. In this high-spec Tekna model, it’ll return 70.6mpg and 103g/km CO2 emissions while the Renegade only manages 61.4mpg and 120g/km CO2 emissions.
In the Jeep’s defence, though, both cars manage 40-odd to the gallon in the real world, and the Jeep’s 60Nm of extra torque really makes a difference when you need some low-down grunt.
Even so, it would probably be a little fairer to compare both cars in their 1.6-litre diesel guises, but Jeep is steadfastly pitching the Renegade at fleets, and they will always want the most efficient models. For those less concerned with emissions though, the 1.6-litre front-drive Qashqai returns 65.7mpg and 120g/km emissions, making it a close match for the Jeep.
The Jeep actually nudges ahead in terms of lease rates though, with the average three-year Renegade lease costing businesses £217 per month and personal customers £256 per month. In comparison, a similar Qashqai deal averages £258 per month on business terms and £305 per month for private users.*
As a road car, the Qashqai is a consummate all-rounder beaten only by its Renault-badged sibling, the Kadjar. The Jeep has far more character though, and if you need some off-road capability from your SUV, the Renegade’s the one for you.
*Average lease rates based on ContractHireAndLeasing data and correct as of 31/03/16.